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Don’t Get Stuck in the Middle

November 12, 2010
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By Carol Boyd

A recent EdVox post, Knowing the Score, provided families with a few helpful tips for parent-teacher conferences. This week NYC middle schools will be hosting family conferences and it is essential that families not only know the score but also take affirmative action to avoid having their children stuck in the middle grades.

To realize a whopping savings of less than $3 per student, the Department of Education (DoE) shifted the onus of printing test score results to the individual schools. Regardless of who’s running the Xerox, by now you should have received your child’s test scores in both Math and English Language Arts (ELA). If you don’t have your child’s scores, call the school immediately. If that doesn’t work, then (as has been suggested by the DoE) call 3-1-1!

Test scores should not be the sole indicator of how your child is performing in school, but they do allow parents, students, and teachers to design academic intervention services (AIS) that are prescriptive rather than punitive. Currently, in NYC there are more than 239,000 children left behind by Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein. Had NYSED involved parents and other school stakeholders in the front end planning of the test score recalibration process, there might be far less need for so much collateral damage and waiver granting.

Raising the achievement bar for children without any viable support system is simply postponing lowering the boom. Unlike the lower grades, in middle school it is critical that parents and teachers shift the focus from planning for a child to achieve academic success to planning with the student to yield positive outcomes. Students must be expected not only to set realistic goals but to engage the opportunities (such as more effective teaching and less test prep) needed to meet them. The DoE introduces students to high school readiness in grade 6; schools and families must do likewise, because the grades and test scores that your child earns in grade 7 are used for high school admissions. If your child has fallen behind or is at risk of falling behind, ask the teachers what intervention strategies are in place for them to improve now, rather than later. This year, several students were forced to return to their former schools because they failed to meet state proficiency standards. For parents whose children are meeting or surpassing grade standards, seek enrichment opportunities for them now. The more they know the more they grow.

If your child’s school currently offers extended day or expanded learning time, ask your child’s teacher how these services are being used to support your child. If these services are not available to all students, enlist the support of other parents and the school to offer these options to all students.

In a perfect world, middle school conferences would allow families the chance to meet with all of the students’ teachers and support staff as a team to collaboratively address questions or concerns that would promote and support whole child success. In the absence of such a mechanism, parents, teachers and students must work together to create a culture of aspiration and not exasperation, to insure graduation and preparedness for post-secondary education without remediation.

To find out how parents, teachers and schools can work as partners to promote success for all students, visit Communities for Excellent Public Schools.

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